We love planning fun getaways for all of our clients, but sometimes we get the honor of planning something more special than just a vacation. Please read on about our clients’ very personal and significant trip to Normandy, where her father died fighting in WWII, and Paris:
Thank you to Diane at Esplanade Travel for listening and asking the right questions, for the attention to details, and for thoughtfully planning a vacation that combined poignant history with the wonder of discovery.
This past spring our destination was France with stops in Normandy and Paris. For my mother this trip was significant. Her father “Billy” Jacobson had died during the WWII battle of Normandy. She was five when he died and never had the opportunity to visit her father’s grave.
Our memorable guide Roberto greeted us at baggage claim and transferred us to Gare Saint Lazare train station. Riding the train with the “locals” was the way to go. We enjoyed seeing the countryside after our long flight and it gave me a chance to remember nearly forgotten high school French. We successfully disembarked at Bayeaux Station and stayed at the charming Hotel Argouges – a historic building, centrally located and run by a cheerful staff – an excellent jumping off point for our tours of historic WWII sites. In the early evenings wine and cheese could be ordered as a prelude to mouth-watering dinners at nearby restaurants.
Diane from Esplanade took the time to learn about our family history and worked with Eva, our guide in Bayeaux, to create a tour that followed the route my grandfather took when he landed on the beaches of Normandy through to the small town of d’Isigny. Eva’s knowledge of history was amazing and thorough. She had maps and photos on hand to help us better understand the vast undertaking of the battle of Normandy and what the soldiers and local citizenry experienced at the time.
Eva arranged for a beautiful bouquet to lay on my grandfather’s grave at the American National Cemetery in Normandy. Throughout the morning there we spoke and sometimes simply held hands in silence as we honored my grandfather and the soldiers buried in France.
After our visit to the cemetery, Eva took us to a wonderful restaurant for a memorable lunch – French Wine and Mussels! From there we visited Pointe du Hoc, the beach where my grandfather came ashore. It was near this place my grandfather was killed just four days after surviving the beach and the gunnery points along the ravine to d’Isigny.
To balance our visit to the American Cemetery, we visited the German Cemetery as well. A friend had suggested this and it was definitely worth the time – a sobering reminder of the lives lost on both sides of the war.
We returned to Paris, where our guide Roberto met us and took us to the Hotel Recamier in the Saint Sulpice neighborhood. The hotel was a fun mix of old and new – the staircase alone was the focal point in many photos.
That afternoon we visited the Baccarat Museum, then on to the Moulin Rouge for dinner and a show. After, Roberto provided an impromptu night tour of Paris – a grand finale to a spectacular evening.
The following day another knowledgeable guide took us to Notre Dame, drove us through Montmartre and then dropped us at the Louvre. Thanks to Diane’s knowledge and planning we entered the museum at the Passage Richelieu “Coupe File/Skip the Line” entrance. Voila! We were in!
To complete our trip, we took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower then made our way to the Pierre Hermes Patisserie near our hotel in Saint Sulpice. There were plenty of locals standing in line to support Roberto’s explanations of the patisserie’s popularity and fame. Our last evening in Paris, we dined on mouth-watering soufflés at Cuisine de Philippe near our hotel.
When we flew home we looked at our photos, laughed, reminisced and ate our airline dinner. When it was time for desert and an ice cream snack, we politely declined and unwrapped our beautifully packaged Pierre Hermes pastries. After seeing the boxes, the stewardess offered us a fork and smiled before wishing us “Bon Appetit!”